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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Ben, The Man Of a Thousand Places
Ben of The Man of a Thousand Places wants to travel the world and posts some very interesting and unique content on his blog. He’s also a finance nerd like me, so I love his detailed analysis and spreadsheets!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
For a long time I was under the mistaken impression that extraordinary travel opportunities were simply beyond my reach. I scrimped and saved for years to be able to see some amazing parts of the world.
Finally, a little over a year ago I got my act together and put my point accumulating efforts into high gear. In the last year I’ve collected more than a million points (with the help of my wife, of course).
Why did you start The Man of a Thousand Places? What’s special about it?
The world is a big place. If I’m going to see all of it, I will need to use every resource I have and every trick I can learn. I wanted a place where I could document my travels and share my experience with others.
Also, I want other people to appreciate that great adventures are within their reach. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the thrill that comes from discovering new places. By using some of the resources on my site, more people should be able to do so.
What’s the one single thing most people can do to get more miles?
Clearly, credit card sign-up bonuses are the best source of quick, easy miles and points. After that, focusing on a select number of programs will be most beneficial. Everyone should have a free membership to all of the major programs, but concentrating your efforts on one or two is a key point.
Since many people are serviced by just one airport often with one dominant airline, their flight options may be somewhat limited by that program, or at least one airline alliance. By learning all about the Terms and Conditions, what it takes to gain elite status, and how upgrading rules work, a person will be able to maximize the benefits they receive through a program.
Most people simply don’t have the time to learn this much about more than one or two airlines. This goes for hotel programs, too.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My wife and I took a trip to Italy and France a few years ago that was mostly paid for using points and miles; our airfare and about half of our hotels were free!
In Italy, we spent time in Sicily, along the Amalfi Coast, and in Cinqueterre, In France, we were mostly in Normandy and Paris. We saw some amazing places, created some unforgettable memories, and can’t wait to do it again!
What do your family and friends think of your miles and points hobby?
Some of my family and friends are just as industrious as I am, when it comes to collecting points. We share ideas and make suggestions to each other all the time. It is a constant topic of conversation and borders on obsession. Much of my blog is dedicated to my friends and family who think I’ve lost my mind.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Lately, I’ve been wishing I could download the entire FlyerTalk forum into my brain. There is such a vast amount of information and knowledge shared on the site that it staggers the imagination. It is an incomparably useful resource as a points junkie.
The drawback is that information can be disorganized and hard to find. (Imagine ten thousand people having interesting and useful conversations at one time and trying to parse the useful information.) It is an intimidating resource for the novice, but a great one once you’ve learned to navigate the madness.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Just by asking for them! I may have asked because I was a long time cardholder and there was a particularly good promotion in the market that I felt penalized my loyalty or simply because a better offer came up after I had applied for a card.
I am continually surprised at the lengths some companies will go to in order to keep customers happy. You may not get what you ask for every time, but there are lots of points being given away. You might as well put your hand out!
What do you know now about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had known how frequently you can get a bonus for the same card. A couple years ago I had thought that a sign-up bonus was a once in a lifetime deal and I didn’t want to squander the opportunity before I really needed it.
In some cases this may be true, but in many cases it is very far from the truth. That’s why tools like FlyerTalk exist. If only I had known sooner!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I don’t particularly like flying. I know, it sounds crazy, but the novelty of being on a plane wore off for me quite a while ago. I’m all about the destination. This may have something to do with my travel style, though.
I rarely fly first class and I will neither pay nor redeem miles to do so. When I think about using my points, I focus pretty heavily on opportunity cost. If I have 100,000 miles to spend, I would much rather redeem them for two trips to Europe in coach instead of one trip in business or first class.
I’m still young enough that I can tolerate the discomfort of a transoceanic flight reasonably well. Doubling the number of times I am able to travel is an easy decision for me. This changes the way I value points and miles and the effort I will expend to accrue them, but it suits my travel goals best.
Any parting words?
Collecting points is a game, not a race. Take time to learn the “rules of the game” and map out your strategy. Figure out what is important to you and then pursue it.
There’s no reason you won’t reach your goals with a little effort and determination.
Ben – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
So check out The Man of a Thousand Places if you’re looking for more ways to earn miles and points!